My husband Alex and I are big movie buffs. We love seeing movies in the theatre, and will often go on opening night to experience the film with other enthusiastic movie-goers. Having grown up on live theatre, the audience is a huge part of the experience for me. However, there have been many weekends of late where we opt not to go to the theatre at all. This is because nothing is exciting or compelling enough to get us out of the house, especially with today’s exorbitant ticket prices.
It’s very disappointing to find that almost nothing has garnered my attention, let alone my active interest or excitement. Of the 6 trailers shown before a movie we saw recently, only one, the Ben Affleck political thriller Argo, caught my interest at all. To boot, I’d seen the trailer before, so I already knew I wanted to see the film. There has been more of interest to Alex than to me lately, because he enjoys big action movies more than I do. But even for him, there’s been little that has really drawn us to the theatre. Even movies that usually interest me and that my friends are excited to see, such as Wreck It Ralph, are not really thrilling me. I’m sure I’ll go see it, but I’m not terribly excited about it.
Granted, at home we have trouble choosing what movies to watch on video or cable, because while there is plenty that we both enjoy, our go-to choices differ. You can tell just by looking at our collection which DVDs are Alex’s and which are mine. I hate that we seem to follow stereotypical definitions, but it appears to be the case: His genre of choice is science fiction, followed closely by action. He likes to be taken to another world. I prefer romantic comedies, and I sometimes like real world or historical dramas. While I like some action movies, I need to have at least a little comic relief, and ideally, a little romance. Alex jokes that if there aren’t any explosions in it, he doesn’t want to see it.
Some time ago, I read in Entertainment Weekly that B-movies are a thing of the past, and there are only two kinds of movies today: blockbusters and independent films. While the definitions are in flux and I think are becoming less about distributors and more about content, blockbusters generally tend to have huge budgets, both for production and marketing, and they are shown in more theatres across the country so they can garner enormous audiences to pay off their enormous expenses. They contain fanciful and amazing stories; lots of chases, explosions, and special effects; and big-name stars. Independent films generally have smaller budgets and fewer (if any) special effects, and are often about more “real-world” topics, such as love and relationships, office or work place situations, or subversive subjects like political, social, or class commentary.
Reading that films are either blockbusters or indies shocked me, as I realized just how much that explains about the state of film today. I would think there must be some middle ground, but apparently there isn’t—at least not any more. And how, why, and to what extent this effects whether films interest or disappoint me is something I’ll be considering more in posts to come. To generalize hugely, while maintaining our stereotypical male/female definitions, Alex is more interested in the blockbusters and I’m more interested in indies. Of course, that’s not true of everything; there are plenty of blockbusters that interest me, and plenty of indies that don’t, and the opposite is true for Alex. Living in Maryland made it more difficult to see some of the independent films that caught my attention. If they came to town at all, they were only in one or two theatres in downtown DC. At least here in LA, it’s slightly easier to see some of these movies. They eventually come “to a theatre near me,” or I can go into town to see them, but it doesn’t seem as far away as downtown DC did. Perhaps I’m still so new to the area that I’m more open-minded to the distance. I still enjoy the view.
Even the few films we trek out to see have been disappointing in some way or another. Perhaps it’s my state of mind lately, or just the speed with which time passes and life moves on, but I don’t recall many that completely blew me away. The Adjustment Bureau and The Switch stand out as exceptions: films I truly loved, and much more than I expected to. There are a handful of others, like MI3: Ghost Protocol and Men in Black 3, that I enjoyed, but I tend to forget about them shortly after I’ve seen them. (The huge exception to this entire discussion is The Hunger Games, which I was excited about seeing and I absolutely loved, but that’s largely because I read the book first; I’ll probably discuss this in depth another time). The indies I’ve seen have been so miserable and depressing that I’ve almost regretted seeing them. This is a concern I have about The Perks of Being a Wallflower (though I’ve not read the book). I’m all for films that provoke thought and critical discussion, but somehow there’s a thin line. I’m definitely more of an escapist, and it’s easy for me to make myself miserable; I don’t need films to help me get there.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately, both the indie vs. blockbuster idea and the fact that movies have been so disappointing to me lately, so there will probably be more on the topic in the future. I’ll also look more closely at some of the films I’ve seen. In the meantime, am I the only one feeling disillusioned with the movie industry? Have you been disappointed with movies of late? What are you looking forward to seeing in the future?